• Venue: Swellendam
  • Date: 3-5 June

How about a relaxing get-away-weekend? Like with so many towns all over South Africa, you always get those few mtb enthusiast jumping in to get their hands dirty for the love of riding bikes in the mountains! Swellendam is no different thanks to passionate people like Sakkie, Wynand and Alison.

Swellendam is mostly know in the cycling community for its success in hosting the one of a kind, Double Century Team Time Trial in November, but now, they have some marked routes thanks to the Marloth National Park and some landowners in the mountains looking down of the lovely town.

Reinette and I packed our bikes and enjoyed the scenery on the easy drive from Cape Town, and was smiling from ear-to-ear when we saw the gorgeous Schoone Oordt Boutique Hotel. Even more so when we read about how Alison and Richard worked tirelessly for 4-years to transform this lovely Cape Victorian style house in simple, stylish comfor

Saturday we joined the “Friends of Marloth”, an initiative to promote the active use of the Marloth National Park for riding and hiking, on their first social outride on their newly marked routes. There are 3 options for all levels, with the 28-kilometer loop we did, a little more challenging with plenty of climbing and some real mtb terrain. The focus at this time is open routes, on a later stage more singletrack will be implemented. Great to see what Sakkie, a full time farmer, with the assistance of some others are doing!

On Sunday we headed out to the Bontebok National Park for a slightly easier mtb outing. This is perfect for family or if you feel like doing a simple 40-kilometer ride while searching for some Bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Red Wildebees and Grey Ribbok. They do have a dedicated mtb section which is just a rougher jeeptrack, but still very easy for anyone to do.

We did not get there this time around, but not to far away from Swellendam is the Grootvadersbos trail network were singletrack is the game, with some accommodation options that could make for a lovely backpack tour.

One can only ride so much, and apart from cycling coffee and food is next on the list! We did not get to try all, but an absolute winner was the steak at Field and Fork with the beef straight from a local Swellendam farm. Breakfast at Schoone Oordt had us pretty motivated to get out bed which is normally very hard on a relaxing weekend like this! And our post ride coffees was a simple choice at the Old Gaol restaurant/coffeeshop, were a warm soup greeted us we planted ourselves in the afternoon sun.

Another favourite that is a must visit is the Rain Spa and Shop. I did not know about this brand, much more something for the ladies, but their soaps, shampoo, creams and many more will sure get you excited, even bought myself some bath-salts for that relaxing alone time in the bath after my rides ;) And since we had such a big ride in Marloth, we did not have a choice but to go for a relaxing rub at the Spa, the Elephant walk, it was a treat, so relaxing, could almost not move for 15-minutes after!

With all these activities and great places, we were mostly blown away with the friendly community. All the staff we encountered were well spoken and a delight. The people that live there, that we got to deal with, are so proud of their town, they stand together and it is heart warming. Thanks Swellendam for a stunning weekend! Cant wait for our next visit.

 

 

  • Venue: Malmesbury
  • Date: 21 May 2016
  • Distance: 164km
  • Climbing: 2500m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 5h41

This race back in 2009 is still classified as the worst weather I ever had to take on in a race, and I loved it! It was such a cool challenge and I can still remember, with probably not even half of the entrants there to start, event organizer Muerant's speech, basically telling us we are not softies, but tough mountain bikers, and we set off motivated down the roads that was transformed into rivers!

A few years later and I am back at this race and in a total contrast, were spoilt by the most amazing weather. The sunrise had everyone in awe, and during the race I often found myself staring around me not really concentrating on were I am going, luckily it was mostly all gravel roads with not too many risks of hitting a rock or hole.

Because of the non technical nature of the course, its often been a race between the mountain bikers and the roadies, and after a slow start, it is a 100 miles after all, the field split when Adriaan Louw got itchy 20km into the race up the first steep climb and a seven man group were formed with a good mix of road racers in there. On the only real loose climb after 50km, Adriaan and I made a further split, and the two of us rolled through the miles together, keeping the tempo high until Adriaan just could not keep the pace over the last group of hills with 20km to go, leaving me to take it in record time.

I was surprised with the amount of people at the race, it was well organised and enough beers and snacks for some hungry cyclist! Thanks AMA Rider, Dirtopia and Izelle for the feeding.

Photocredit: Oakpics

 

 

  • Venue: Boschendal, Stellenbosch
  • Date: 7 May 2016
  • Distance: 70km
  • Climbing: 1700m
  • Position: 6th
  • Time: 3h04

 It wasn't too long ago that Jeremiah and I had our best stage of this years Cape Epic at this venue placing 4th. That was a good day and the route for the first Nissan Trailseeker race of the year, was very similar. After the fires damaged some trails, the riders were treated to the new, awesome Boschendal trails, apart from that after cutting out the SImonsberg Trail Network, the finish was pretty much similar as the last 40km from the Epic stage.

I was motivated for this race after realising at the recent Arabella Challenge that the legs are actually going pretty well, and with the trails that I really like on this course added to the excitement. However, even on the first climb going up Simonsberg, I could feel the legs are not going well and after hoping to ride myself into the race but I was just slipping back. It ended up being a good tempo training ride for me, and the only explanation for the legs not flying can be maybe a bit of over eagerness in my recent training leading up to the event.

It was a good day non the less, close to home and stunning in between the mountains. Thank Advendurance for putting up a good event.

 

 

  • Venue: Arabella Golf Estate, Kleinmond
  • Date: 23-24 April 2016
  • Distance: 50+43km
  • Climbing: 1300+800m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 4h01

Now this is a race not to be missed! Since my first participation in this event, it is just penciled into my calendar every year. I love this venue and it is a lovely breakaway close to Cape Town if you do not mind eating good, playing golf, chill at the spa or ride your bike!

The racing aspect is always fun, but for me it is much more the social get together with most of the participants staying in the Arabella Hotel. With Cell C becoming a partner this year, the event stepped up a notch, with the "pool party" being the highlight for me. After every stage the participants got lunch, wine, comfy chairs and live music in the stunning swimming pool area of the Hotel.

The route is exciting and fun, day 1 mostly jeep track with quite a lot of climbing, but it is rough and you will know you are in a mountain bike race. While day two started with the first 20km almost all singletrack on the Wildekrans Wine farm and the racing stayed very close with not too much climbing giving riders the chance to really split the field.

I was fortunate to win this race a second year in a row, last year was for sure a bit easier being much more of an social event, but this year had to work for it with my closest sprint ever against Adriaan Louw on day 1. And on day 2, the rough flattish terrain played in my favour towards the end. Thanks for the hurting me in the fast starts and good racing Adriaam, Dylan and Steph!

Video  | Newsport Media:

 

Images  |  Tobias Ginsberg

 

 

 

  • Venue: Clarens, Free State
  • Date: 16 April 2016
  • Distance: 112km
  • Climbing: 2100m
  • Position: 16th
  • Time: 4h40

Whooha! Okay, this did not go entirely as planned. But to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from my body for this race as it was the first one after a rather important block including the Andalucia Bike Race and the Cape Epic, and there is always this fine balance between knowing when your body is rested enough and ready to go again.

I love the town of Clarens, it is in the middle of nowhere, full with art galeries, restaurants and the lovely golden Gate Reserve, and for sure I enjoy going back there every year. The race is at a very high altitude for us Capies at close to 2000m, not something we are often used to, but the route and terrain is great for a proper day worth of mountain biking.

The racing did not go my way, I felt out of my depth and as if my body was not interested to push hard at all, strange as I had some good training days, but after about an hour, there was nothing and I was racing just to hang on, and eventually just to survive after opting to finishing the race through my physical and mental strain.

To win the National title in the discipline I love is still something that will always be on my radar, hopefully someday things will work out!

 

 

  • Venue: Cape Town area
  • Date: 13-20 March 2016
  • Distance: 654km
  • Climbing: 15000m
  • Position: 10th (4th stage best)
  • Time: 29h20

It is Mountain Biking's biggest stage race in the world and I just love being part of it and racing my heart out! It was an honour to race with the Topeak Ergon team this year, and to be there in support of Alban and Kristian, we had big goals, sadly they did not work out, but we will be back and even more ready!

The week did not start great, the team had some tough challenges to face even before the kick-off and it was impressive how everyone stood together and be motivated for the race. Alban and Kristian struggled to find their mojo, but every day you could see they got more into it, especcially in the later parts of the stages, I think they still had a good chance at the title, but halfway through the race, Kristian had a big crash and with a banged up elbow, he had no choice but to pull out of the race.

This gave Jeremiah and me all the freedom to race pour hearts out, off course we were effected with our leaders pulling out, but we wanted to keep the Topeak Ergon name high. We came close on day 7 through my home trails of Stellenbosch, but at the end I did not have the goods in the legs, I just could not hold on to the back wheel of the Bulls, but we were still happy to claim a 4th spot on the stage. Also to work our way back into the top 10 after our support roll came to an end was a big bonus.

Sally and Adel had a super consistent week, finishing on the podium almost every stage and placed 3rd overall by the end of the week.

Now we make our plans for a big year in 2017, my 10th event, and I have a good feeling about it ;)

Images  |  Andy Eyring  |  Ergon

 

 

Video  | Team Topeak Ergon:

 

 

 

  • Venue: Kaleo Farm, Ceres
  • Date: 12-14 February 2016
  • Distance: 254km
  • Climbing: 4500m
  • Position: 2nd (solo category)
  • Time: 11h07

The Du Toit Tankwa Trek was the first real big test before the Cape Epic, a tough 3-day stage race which simulates the conditions we would find a month later and even some of the same trails and routes as the Epic. That is not the number one reason going to the race however, it has become a great race on its own accord, real mountain biking and a great venue that will most likely  get me back for many more years.

Sadly the racing did not go super great, stomach illness just before the race had me struggling on the first day, the body was dead and I could not race properly. Day two over the big and special "Merino Monster" climb was much better however and I could feel the condition is not that bad for the upcoming Andalucia Bike Race. The last day was even better, a mechanical hampered my movements, but luckily I could still finish the race in 2nd place overall.

 

 

 

  • Venue: Delvera Wine Farm, Stellenbosch
  • Date: 6-7 February 2016
  • Distance: 55km + 52km
  • Climbing: 800m + 1300m
  • Position: DNF
  • Time: DNF

It's been great to be a little bit involved with this race. I like new races to see what the organisers can come up with to make their event special in such a packed environment in SA mountain biking already.

The race got a big shock with the Simonsberg fire ravaging the trails and the whole mountain only 2-weeks before. I could not believe when they said the race was going to go ahead, mostly thanks to event sponsors, Fairtree investing more to get 50 workers onto the trails to clear them all up and rake them clean before the race. They could not rescue all the trails, nor could they get all of them perfect, but what they did was a great achievement.

I liked the venue with breakfast buffet, coffee, lunch, beer and bike-wash all included and making life easy. It was such a chilled vibe and I think that is what mountain biking is all about.

On a racing front this was supposed to be another nice test for the body and some intensity training, but sadly a mechanical forced me out of the first stage, but at least I could keep the heart rate high on day 2 and enjoy the scenery and socialising.

A fun event and I can't wait to see what the organisers and sponsors got up their sleeves for the next edition with hopefully no fires.

#FireRide

 

 

  • Venue: Meerendal Wine Farm, Durbanville
  • Date: 30 January 2016
  • Distance: 102km
  • Climbing: 2200
  • Position: 11th
  • Time: 4h30

After flying at this event 12-months ago, it feels quite strange not being on top of things. But with so much racing including the 6-day Andalusia Bike race in Spain still before the first real big goal for the team this year, the Cape Epic, it was a strategy I though in my best interest to rather try and start the season slightly slower. I could feel, especially last year, that the shape started dwindeling at the Epic, and I needed to rectify that.

I love racing at Meerendal though as I like the fynbos, terrain, rails and shorter climbs, but it just did not seem to come together. Going into the race with a slight back and hip issue from maybe overloading a bit, the freshness and sharpness was just not there. And what a cruel wake-up for the body in its first race in more than 2-month to go straight up the steep stairway-to-heaven climb! Wow, that was ouch.

The pace did not slow down, I took some strain, but luckily felt I recovered a bit and started making my way up the field into 7th, but that effort stopped even more cruel with the toughness of the last part of the race, and I had to let my body and mind accept defeat and bring it home at a pace that felt like crawling.

It remains to be seen if my strategy to a slower start to the year will work and using the busy calendar to get myself sharp and ready for the Epic.

Erik Kleinhans is the new face of the Topeak-Ergon Racing Team. The South African will ride with Jeremiah Bishop to help support the duo of Alban Lakata/Kristian Hynek at the Worlds biggest stage races. Additionally, the 33-year old marathon specialist will be looking to hunt down podium trophies of his own …

”It is such a great honor for me to be a part of this great team and I feel extremely excited to start the season. Topeak-Ergon is the best marathon team in the World and the riders are respected for their talents and down to earth presence”, commented Erik Kleinhans during the signing of his contract.

The staff of Topeak-Ergon found the South African competitor to be a pleasant and intelligent sportsman both on and off the race course. When a replacement for Robert Mennen was needed, Erik’s name quickly came to mind.

Erik Kleinhans is a late bloomer, at least when it comes to the professional side as an athlete. Before he became a professional, after winning the South African Cross-Country championship in 2010, he studied Finance and Business Management, worked as an organizer for Giro del Capo, and performed other functions in the cycling industry.

Nevertheless, he holds impressive career stats after only five years. Notable results include: 2x winner in the mixed category at Cape Epic with his wife Ariane, victory at Wines2Whales and the CT Cycle Tour MTB (2015), as well as victory at the Cape Pioneer in 2013.

Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek stood out as his greatest competition over the last few years. In 2016, he will support his new teammates at the Cape Epic and other stage races with Jeremiah Bishop at his side.

Team Chief Dirk Juckwer is also more than convinced of the new team member: ”With its exceptional expertise and his many years of experience Erik will help us to succeed especially in the big stage races. So welcome Erik!”

Erik’s goals for 2016? ”Very simple: I primarily want to help Alban and Kristian win the Cape Epic and support them at other top tier stage races. Also, I want to continue to be as successful in the South African races as I have in the past.”

As announced by different media outlets, Robert Mennen left the team at the end of the year and will follow a different career path after he graduates, however, not entirely without the feeling of a heavy-heart. The 30-year old German looks back on a very successful and close relationship with the Topeak-Ergon Racing Team. He won the German Championship in 2013 and Cape Epic in 2014. We would like to use this occasion to wish him all the best!

 

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